Public Release: 

Five new Research Units, 4 new Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies

Topics range from the international rule of law to carbonates in the Earth's mantle; approximately 23.5 million euros for the initial funding period

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

This news release is available in German.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing five new Research Units and four new Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies. This was decided by the DFG Senate in Bonn. The research collaborations will enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and establish innovative work directions. As with all DFG Research Units, the collaboration between the new units will be interdisciplinary and span multiple locations.

Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies are a special type of funding instrument specifically tailored to the working methods used in the humanities. They are funded for a period of four years - and not for three years like the other Research Units.

In the initial funding period, the nine new units will receive a total of approximately 23.5 million euros over the three- or four-year periods. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 186 Research Units and 11 Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies.

The new Research Units
(in alphabetical order by host university)

The researchers in the Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies "Thinking Films -Poetologies of the Audiovisual Image" put forward the thesis that the media is not just a means of communicating certain content, but also represents technical enhancement of our perception. This enhancement influences our understanding and our judgement. When film is analysed as a historical, cultural or political discourse, this usually means its content - and not the form of representation, that is the images. However, how can filmic images be analysed, evaluated and categorised as discourse if we do not perceive them as representations, but rather as a form of technological modelling? The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies wishes to answer these questions and develop a methodology for analysing filmic discourse.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hermann Kappelhoff, Free University of Berlin)

The idea of value-orientated juridification of international relationships extending to "world citizenship" is very appealing. Its aim is global peace and the realisation of ideas of global justice. However, the development could currently go in the opposite direction, with reformalisation or even de-juridification processes. The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies "The International Rule of Law - Rise or Decline?" is investigating the role that international law plays in current globalisation conditions. In an interdisciplinary collaboration between law and politics, the researchers will look at fundamental changes to international law beyond individual symptoms of crisis and monocausal models of explanation.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Georg Nolte, Humboldt University of Berlin)

The Research Unit "Nanoporous Gold - A Prototype for a Rational Design of Catalysts" is concerned with the use of nanoporous gold as a catalytic material. Earlier research has already shown the potential of nanoporous gold to act as a catalyst for oxidation. In a concerted approach, experimental and theoretical researchers will work to acquire fundamental knowledge in this important field of catalysis research. In concrete terms, the Research Unit will investigate phenomena in the gas phase and in the fluid phase, on the surface and in the area of electrocatalysis. The findings made in the prototype systems under investigation will be of broad significance to the extensive field of catalysis research, including industrial applications.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marcus Bäumer, University of Bremen)

What does the interior of the Earth look like? The composition and physical properties of the Earth's mantle are still full of mystery. The researchers in the Research Unit "Structures, Properties and Reactions of Carbonates at High Temperatures and Pressures" want to examine the role of carbonates in the Earth's mantle. The focus is on improving understanding of the phase relation, crystal chemistry and physical properties of the carbonates, by simulating the conditions of the mantle transition zone and the lower mantle below it - which means very high temperatures and very high pressures. The Research Unit brings experts from various geoscientific disciplines together with cutting edge technology.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Björn Winkler, Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main)

The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies "Jewish Scepticism" looks at the subject of Jewish scepticism from two angles: firstly, it is examined as a stream of philosophy within the Jewish tradition and, secondly, as a specific habitus, as a culture of critical questioning, the cultural features of which are also to be investigated. The findings of the Unit will also become significant for other disciplines through these two views of Jewish scepticism. The researchers will focus on the Early Modern Era, which up to now has been viewed by philosophers as primarily part of Latin tradition. However, the Research Unit seeks to highlight the non-Latin tradition as well.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Giuseppe Veltri, University of Hamburg)

Inflammatory eye conditions, which can lead to blindness, are increasingly prevalent in ageing populations. They include wetting defects, tumours or inflammation of the uvea. These inflammatory responses are triggered by the abnormal development of lymph vessels and by certain rogue cells in the immune system and the nervous system. Improving the understanding of these molecular processes is the aim of the "(Lymph)Angiogenesis and Cellular Immunity in Inflammatory Diseases of the Eye" Research Unit. The researchers are also looking at the basis for new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for widespread diseases of the eye.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Claus Cursiefen, University Hospital Cologne)

What are the socio-political and cultural links between media and the technological involvement with media? The "Media Participation. Link Between Demand and Utilisation" Research Unit seeks to investigate this association more closely. It will include aspects of the history, ethnology, aesthetics, sociology and philosophy of media, as well as artistic and literature-based aspects. The researchers want to use three main categories, "Speaking out", "Promises" and "Contradictions" to look at the process-based nature of communities, which are understood here as being in a constant process of renegotiated formation. The end result is intended to be a theoretical determination of the concept of media participation and a view of the drawbacks of media participation.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Beate Ochsner, University of Konstanz)

Research is focusing increasingly strongly on cities and their residents. While the population in many urban areas is falling in the north-western hemisphere, in the global south we are seeing rapidly growing megacities. Both processes give rise to fundamental ethical questions about urban politics and its stakeholders. The "Urban Ethics. Conflicts Surrounding Good Urban Lifestyles in the 20th and 21st Centuries" Research Unit seeks to find answers to these questions. It will look at urban individuals as its subjects and their search for measures for "living well and properly". The Unit wants to find new ways to research urban life through this quest for an urban ethic.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Johannes Moser, LMU University of Munich)

The early phase of modern humanity lies 40,000 to 100,000 years in the past. Archaeology, palaeoanthropology and genetics have jointly reconstructed this period in detail. Historical linguistics, on the other hand, has up to now researched more recent prehistory, dating back at most 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. But how did humans develop in the interim? The "Words, Bones, Genes, Tools" Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies seeks to fill this gap. Its goal is to examine more clearly the period some 3,000 to 30,000 years ago by an interdisciplinary collaboration between linguistics, palaeoanthropology, archaeology and genetics. Significant progress in these disciplines have now made it possible to tackle a project of this kind realistically for the first time.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gerhard Jäger, University of Tübingen)


Further Information

Media contact: DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2443,

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the established units.

For information on DFG Research Units and Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies also refer to:

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.